Step 5: Build a Strong, Broad-Based Coalition
A coalition is a group of organizations or individuals who work together for a common purpose. By joining with others who have similar priorities, you create a sense that tennis has wide community support. Also, building a coalition increases your appeal and can create networking and partnership opportunities between you, your organization and your partner organization. Other benefits of a coalition are:
- Coalitions can provide cost effectiveness; you now can share duties and resources.
- Coalitions have greater potential to attract media attention.
- Coalitions offer greater access to expertise by calling on a range of organizations and individuals.
Remember also to seek participation from all sectors of your community. The coalition is an opportunity to build bridges and form new alliances. Potential allies and supporters for a coalition include:
- Local tennis groups, such as CTAs and NJTLs, Tennis Service Reps and wheelchair tennis players
- Educational organizations, such as local public schools and colleges, as well as tennis coaches, teachers, school boards and parent-teacher organizations
- Local park authorities, such as park boards, parks and recreational departments or the park commission
- Local business leaders, politicians and influential community leaders
- Healthcare agencies
- Law enforcement groups
- Youth serving non-profits (e.g., Boys & Girls Clubs, YMCA/YWCA)
- Media organizations
Tip: Having people who support you and your mission will make the process of securing your project that much easier -- and that much more fun. Remember, it is always more rewarding to share your success with others.
Step 6: Seek Out External Allies
One way to combat any potential problems is to cultivate allies outside tennis, your immediate organization and your coalition. Identifying local decision makers and gaining their early support will be a huge boost to your project down the road. Here are a few examples of local decision makers who may be important to your mission:
- Chamber of Commerce members
- City council members
- College presidents and trustees
- County Commissioners
- Mayor or local executive
- Planning and zoning commission members
- Park and recreation board members
- State legislators
- School board or committee members
Of course, to gain one of these decision makers as an ally, you need to first meet them and engage them. To meet and familiarize yourself with the decision makers in your community, try the following:
- Attend Chamber of Commerce events where public officials will be in attendance.
- Find out if any public officials or their family members play tennis.
- As an individual, participate in local election campaigns so you can get to know the issues.
- Find out how tennis can help address the policy priorities of local decision makers.
Tip: Never rule anyone or anything out. You may be surprised by who wants to help you.
Step 7: Meeting with Decision Makers
You have a focused plan and a network of allies and supporters, so it's time to present your project to the local decision maker to gain approval and turn your dream into reality. How you contact a decision maker differs greatly, depending on what type of project you wish to pitch, but here are two ways to gain an audience with the decision maker of your choice:
- Attend a city council/school board/park board meeting. The times and locations of these meetings is a matter of public record and is public information, so it is available (often on the city websites). Most meetings have a space of time that allows the public to speak, but make sure you sign up in advance.
- Contact a decision maker directly. The contact numbers for all public officials is public information, so call/e-mail the decision-maker's office, and try to schedule a meeting. Allow some time for the decision maker to respond to you. If you don't hear back in two to three weeks, try again. Do not get discouraged if you do not gain an immediate audience with your decision maker. You may get a member of the decision-maker's staff or have to meet with a lower-level group at the outset. Use this opportunity to gain allies and to hone your presentation for your target audience.
Step 8: Executing Your Advocacy Plan
Now that you've delivered your plan and hopefully had it accepted, you need to keep working to make sure your vision comes to fruition. Here are a few tips to see your project through to the end:
- Set intermediate benchmarks for success.
- Focus on achieving a series of short-term wins on the way to a long-term victory.
- Remain focused and vigilant and upbeat and positive.
- Make priorities clear to all.
- Be prepared to answer questions about opposing views in a positive fashion.
- Be polite at all times.
- Stay in consistent communication with all coalition partners, volunteers, local decision makers and the media.
Tip: Don't underestimate the power of the media to aid your project. Having a story on the local news or in the local newspaper about your project will help keep pressure on the decision makers to make sure your project is completed. Blogs and websites can also be effective ways of keeping the public notified of the project's progress.